‘Rhoda’ actress Valerie Harper living ‘fully’ despite brain cancer

Actress Valerie Harper. Credit: Reuters
Actress Valerie Harper.
Credit: Reuters

Actress Valerie Harper, star of the 1970s television comedy “Rhoda,” says she is determined to “live each day’s moments fully” despite a brain cancer diagnosis that doctors told her could bring death in a matter of days or in several years.

Harper, 73, who won four Emmy Awards for her signature sitcom role, said on NBC’s “Today” show on Monday that the reality of her illness hit home “when I heard the word ‘incurable.’”

“‘Incurable’ is a tough word, so is ‘terminal,’” she said with a laugh. The interview, taped from her home in Los Angeles, marked Harper’s first appearance on network television since she disclosed her cancer diagnosis in a People magazine cover story last Wednesday.

In that article, Harper said she learned in mid-January that she was suffering from leptomeningeal carcinomatosis — cancer in the membrane of her brain — and was given as little as three months to live.

In her televised interview with Savannah Guthrie of the “Today” show, Harper said her doctor told her she could live anywhere from a week, if for example she suffered a seizure, to a few months or even for several years, and that he had patients who had lived much longer than the prognosis.

Harper was a prime-time staple on U.S. television through most of the 1970s, first as the brassy but insecure neighbor Rhoda Morgenstern on the hit CBS sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” The character proved so popular that Harper was given her own spinoff series, “Rhoda,” which ran for several more seasons on CBS.

“A lot of folks are calling (asking), ‘Can I come by the house?’ ‘Are you in a wheelchair?’, because they hear it as a death sentence, which it may be,” Harper said on “Today.” “But I’m not dying until I do. I promise I won’t.”

As to holding out hope against a seemingly grim fate, Harper, her voice hoarse due to a bout of laryngitis, said that beyond being hopeful, “I have an intention to live each day’s moments, fully.”

Harper recently completed a tour promoting her new autobiography “I, Rhoda” and starred on Broadway as Tallulah Bankhead in “Looped,” for which she earned a Tony Award nomination.

Harper, who underwent surgery for lung cancer in 2009, said on “Today” that the disease she is currently battling is “very rare” and was “hard to detect because it was diffuse. It’s all around. It’s not in one lump.”

She recounted feeling odd symptoms when she was working to take her “Looped” show on tour, noticing “this weird feeling in my jaw,” adding, “I vomited for no reason and wasn’t sick. And I thought, ‘That’s weird.’”

Despite the dire nature of her condition, Harper said she clings to hope.

“The thing I have is … very rare and it’s serious and it’s incurable … so far. So I’m holding on to the ‘so far.’”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

New statue of Penn State's Paterno set for…

By David DeKokHARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Fundraising for a new statue depicting Joe Paterno "as the man he was and not Joe the football coach"…

Local

Future Boston Alliance invites you to #RidetheLine, support…

#RidetheLine aims to show the city, the nation, and the globe our creative impact as Boston citizens.

Local

(Update) Body of missing BU grad Eric Munsell…

The dead man pulled from the water at Boston's Long Wharf Wednesday afternoon was that of missing 24-year-old Boston University alumnus Eric Munsell, Boston Police said today.

National

On newly released tape, 'Squeaky' Fromme says was…

Manson Family member Squeaky Fromme told a mental health examiner in newly released interview the "X" she carved in her forehead was meant to separate her from "the system."

Movies

Tribeca: 'Goodbye to All That' star Paul Schneider…

Paul Schneider talks about his new film "Goodbye to All That," not acting too much and how he'd rather indulge in simple pleasures than play the scene.

The Word

Taylor Swift battles paparazzi daily at Tribeca penthouse

We're entranced by these photos of poor Taylor Swift leaving her Tribeca apartment.

Movies

Tribeca: Nikki Reed on going funny for a…

"Intramural" star Nikki Reed talks about being the straight person in a broad comedy, spending time in Austin and how "Thirteen" was a "miracle."

Arts

'Becoming Cuba' at Huntington is a bit short…

Playwright Melinda Lopez freely lampoons the English language for its lack of passion in her latest work, “Becoming Cuba.” Ironically, the Huntington Theatre Company’s playwright-in-residence…

NBA

Jason Collins named to Time's 100 Most Influential…

Jason Collins was named to the list after coming out as the first openly gay player to appear in an NBA game.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

MLB

5 infamous pitcher ejections for cheating

Never fear Yankees fans, Michael Pineda is far from the first MLB pitcher to be thrown out of a game for cheating.

NFL

Patriot’s schedule comes up fair

Those looking for built-in excuses for the Patriots 2014-2015 season will have to look elsewhere, because their schedule came up fair. For the fourth straight…

Parenting

New study: Inside the wage gap between boys…

According to a new study, there's a wage gap between boys and girls, with boys earning more allowance for less chores.

Tech

From Apple TV to Fire TV, big changes…

Apple is set to launch a new generation of it's Apple TV, which grossed over $1 billion in 2013. But competition from Amazon and Google looms.

Style

Katy Perry releases a new Claire’s collection

Katy Perry expands her empire by releasing an accessories collection at Claire's.

Style

MAC & Proenza Schouler collection unveiled

MAC Cosmetics is releasing a new collection with Proenza Schouler.